Picture: Puerto Manzano wins the Grade 3 Jubilee Stakes over 1800m at Turffontein Standside on Sunday (JC Photos).
Bloodstock agent Justin Vermaak, trainer Johan Janse van Vuuren and jockey Keagan de Melo were the toast of the Laurence Wernars’ household over the weekend after he had scored a Graded double.
Wernars’ racing fortunes have risen to a high level recently and this has allowed him to “enjoy it again”.
Therefore, he has lately always made a point of acknowledging “the talent and hard work” of those who have enabled him to get it to that level.
His first Graded winner of the weekend was the Querari three-year-old filly Homely Girl.
Vermaak astutely purchased her out of the Justin Snaith yard on behalf of Wernars after she had finished third in the Grade 1 WSB Cape Fillies Guineas.
She finished second in her first three starts for Janse van Vuuren on the Highveld.
He decided to put a pair of “half-cup” blinkers on her for the Grade 2 East Coast Radio Tibouchina Stakes over 1400m at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday.
He explained she had been hitting a flat spot on the Highveld tracks that she would not have been able to afford on the sharper Hollywoodbets Greyville track.
De Melo said the blinkers had made a big difference.
He rode a race which would provide a good race-riding lesson for the Jockeys Academy classes.
He found himself caught wide at about the 900m mark in a one-out position in joint-third place.
However, instead of wasting time looking around to try and slot in, and risking unbalancing the horse, he accepted his fate and allowed her to slide forward slowly. This ensured she did not pull and waste energy.
She thus turned home just a length off the pacemaker in the weight for age plus penalties event.
The small filly galloped resolutely down the straight with a nice big action and won by a cosy 0,80 lengths from a fast-finishing fellow Higheld raider Ecstatic Green.
Then on Sunday the trio of Van Vuuren, De Melo and Wernars combined again to win the Grade 3 Jubilee Stakes over 1800m with the Argentinian-bred Puerto Manzano, who gained his first bold black type.
Wernars explained to the Sporting Post, “We bought Puerto Manzano on a second trip to Argentina. On the first Justin Vermaak bought Mohican, who bolted up at his second start, but unfortunately went in the wind. He also bought Kay Tee Perry who got black type. Also on the second trip, Justin went back to buy Kay Tee Perry’s sister and we needed two colts for the flight. Puerto Manzano was well priced and by a first season sire, but as a specimen he was the best yearling Justin felt he had seen all year. So Justin added him to the group.”
De Melo was at his best again, expertly finding cover from a wide draw and then bringing him through the field from the back to get there at just the right time.
“Sickening the amount of talent this oke’s got,” said Janse van Vuuren abut De Melo after the race.
He then echoed Wernar’s sentiments by saying, “We’ve just got a lovely team at the moment.”
Puerto Manzano fulfilled the belief from last season that he would blossom as a four-year-old by running a Grade 1 second and third respectively recently.
Janse van Vuuren was glad he had got in the winner’s enclosure for the first time for over a year as it should give him a nice confidence booster going onto the Hollywoodbets Durban July.
The connections will have to find a new jockey though because De Melo’s first obligation is to the Dean Kannemeyer yard and he will be riding Waterberry Lane in the big one.
The team had done well a week earlier when the Janse van Vuuren-trained Duke Of Marmalade mare True To Life, bought by Vermaak in training as a two-year-old, finished second in the Grade 1 SA Fillies Sprint brought to you by The Witness in the Wernars colours ridden by De Melo.